While our lives will never completely resemble how they were pre-pandemic, one thing is for sure; more socializing is on the horizon. For some, it’s already knocking on our doorstep, literally.

I recently had the opportunity to host and entertain family from out-town. A few I had seen a handful of times since the pandemic, while others it had been years. As we fell into conversation and laughter, I quickly realized how strange it felt that everything seemed normal. No masks, no talk of vaccines, and no hesitation to hug. It was lovely. But then, a few days later, upon their departure, I crashed. 

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I recharge my energy when I’m alone, something I got really good at throughout the past year and a half. Even with a newborn baby, my husband, and two dogs, I’ve never felt more in control of my energy, time, and space as I did during the worst of the pandemic. But now, as we crawl out of solitude in our home, I’m left wondering how do I keep the peace I found when faced with the world outside my four walls? 

It’s not something I’ve perfected, and it’ll be a consistent iterative process as I settle into my new way of living, working, and socializing. But from someone who’s been there, here are four things I wish I kept in mind when reentering society.

Vocalize Your Needs

When you’re in a social situation where you feel overwhelmed or anxious, don’t be afraid to vocalize it. It’s common for people to perceive actions differently than you intend them. If you’re at a party and it feels like a lot, tell them that you need to step away for a moment. Excusing yourself from the situation by saying, “This is a bit overwhelming after spending the last year at home,” is going to be a lot more authentic than slipping out the back door when you need to face the same people the next day in a group text or at the office.

Say Yes to Plans that Excite You

To protect your energy, a good rule of thumb to follow is if it’s not an immediate yes, it’s no. Saying no is hard and turning down plans with friends is hard, but it’s even harder to drag yourself out of a slump at work when you’re physically and emotionally drained. Your well-being is worth more than a subpar event that leaves you feeling more exhausted than energized.

Be Mindful About Social Media Usage

Social media has kept us all connected when we couldn’t be together in person. But as our actual facetime increases, be conscious of how much time you spend scrolling. Socializing in person requires a different level of effort and energy than a Zoom happy hour. If you’re increasing your in-person meet-ups and keeping your screen time the same, it’s easy to quickly feel drained and only focus on other people’s priorities instead of your own.

Make Time for Stillness

When you’re going, going, going, you may not realize how fast you’re moving until you hit a wall and come tumbling down. So, be intentional about setting aside time every day, even if it’s only a few minutes, to be still. Use the time to meditate or to sit alone with your thoughts. We’re pulled in ten million different directions all day long, from people who need something from us to notifications begging us to check them. Our way of living makes it challenging to focus on our needs and desires, so be mindful of making time to listen to your head and your heart without the outside noise.

Returning to well-deserved vacations, offices, happy hours at actual bars, and celebrations is wonderful, but remember, it’s easiest to give when your cup is full first.